Category Archives: Travel

I’m in a really good place right now!

That’s a bold statement huh?! Especially for someone who hasn’t blogged in ages! I’ve noticed a pattern over the last 12 years I’ve been blogging, when I’m feeling good, I blog less. Now that’s not really all that great for two reasons; One, when I look back through my old journals/blogs, I often see negativity and think my life has just been a big bundle of misery and Two, it doesn’t present the best online persona as someone who’s just angry all the damn time. So, in the interest of balance, I’m writing a nice, positive blog.

So, why is being in a good place such a big deal to me? Well, anyone who’s known me for longer than a 6 month period will probably know I have depression and have done for quite some time. I’ve become quite good at hiding it and not making a big old hoohah out of it, not out of shame or anything, just trying to not let it define me and not letting people judge me for it. But I also know it’s probably never going to go away and because of that I make a really concerted effort to enjoy the good times. I’ve also become quite good at maintaining my moods and heading bad ones off when I feel them coming. I have a lot of tools in my box and I feel more on top of it than I ever have before.

If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you’ll know that last summer I had a vasectomy. It was a horrible experience, the operation was a disaster and the recovery took ages. It really fucked with my head and my body. A couple of months ago, I went to see a reflexologist about my sinuses. During treatment she hit upon a sore point in my foot. I hadn’t told her about my op at this point. She mentioned it was the groin area trigger point but more specifically, the vas deferens. Reflexology works, as I understand it, by unblocking energy blocks. By releasing stuck emotions, energy, “stuff”! I don’t know how it works, but it does. It actually really does. I have felt absolutely amazing since I started monthly treatments. It feels like it’s cleared away a whole ton of crap!

When I started dating the missus, she was doing her yoga teacher training. As the amazing, wonderful, supportive partner I am, I read loads of the texts she had to and learned quite a lot about the body from a non science angle. The recurring theme throughout all of these things is that the feet are incredibly important. They are for grounding. They affect every part of your body. Look after them! I also have a strange obsession with the two world wars and have read tons about them. A recurring theme from the soldiers in the trenches is look after your damn feet! And I don’t think that was just to avoid trench foot!! On some weird subconscious level, they knew the feet were key to their survival.

So, yeah, if you feel like crap and the docs can’t help, try reflexology. The worst that can happen is you get to sit down for an hour and have someone massage your feet. Oh boo fucking hoo! 😉

Off the back of that, my general confidence is quite high at the moment. This is mostly brought on by work. I’m doing really well, my projects are going well, I’m doing some interesting stuff, I have a client budget ($1m) that allows me to be quite creative for the first time in ages, I’m learning some new software that I think will change the face of ERP systems for the future. I’m just really enjoying what I do at the moment. It’s fun. I stated on my LinkedIn profile that I’m probably the number 1 consultant in the UK at what I do. And I think that’s fairly accurate. That puts me quite high up the ranks for the global market too, something which has been kinda affirmed for me which I’ll go into later in this post.

Before I go on, the last thing I want to cover is the bread making. This has come to a grinding halt. One of the downsides of enjoying work is I’ve been caning the hours for the last 6 months which in turn has accelerated my RSI downfall! Basically, my wrists and shoulders are fucked. I’ve been using computers excessively for 27 years!! I basically can’t really knead dough at the moment. I’ve asked for a mixer with a dough arm for my birthday in July and then I’ll continue. In the meantime, I got this really great wrist strap that has a metal bar in it that forces my arm into the correct position. It’s amazing. It hurt like crap at first but I’ve settled into it now. I’m having regular massages, doing regular foam roller exercises and when I get back from my holiday to Spain next month, I’ll be buying a new office chair. Hopefully all of this will keep the RSI at bay for a bit longer so I can continue to work in IT. It was literally so bad I couldn’t sleep, but that seems to have gone away now which is great.

So, all of this positivity and great feeling tied in with all the treatments and the self maintenance I’m doing has helped make me feel really focused and “in the zone”. I’ve been able to look at my life objectively, especially important as my career may come to an end sooner than I would like, and I’ve made a decision that I think is one of the most important decisions of my life.

*drumroll*

We’ve decided to move to Australia!!!

Well, we’ve decided to apply for our visas to move to Australia!

Moving to Cambridge has been the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I’ve really hated it. I’ve tried to love it, really. When we came back from Aus last time, we decided not to move there because it wasn’t the right time and things weren’t in the right place and we came back committed to making Cambridge work for us. It just hasn’t happened. The move last year certainly helped, but it’s not been enough. On top of that, I actually don’t think moving anywhere else in the UK will be all that much different. The country is full and suffering. The government sucks. I will never be able to afford a house here. My career has gone as far as it can. The weather has been appalling for the last 3 years pretty much. The cost of living keeps on rising. It’s just full of hate, hate and more hate. I’m almost ashamed to be British at the moment.

I watch a lot of those relocate down under programs. I know it’s not all fairy tales and cake, the Aussies can be quite brutal, but I’m from the North, I can take it! I’ve been looking into the visa process and everything really is lined up right now for me to apply and get a good point score and hopefully sail through independently without having to rely on sponsorship and be tied down with restrictions. I’ll be writing up the process on a dedicated page so I can track everything, as much for my own benefit as it is for clarifying it for other people should a search land them here. But what I’m hoping for is a generally better quality of life, I want to live by a beach, I want a short commute to an office, I want a good group of friends, I want some fucking hot weather and BBQ’s and to do outdoor activities. Seriously, it feels like the government have turned off the gulf stream just to keep us inside and controlled by the TV! I want to do even better work in my career, I want to have the money I spend on rent be on a fucking nice place not some utter piece of shit that’s falling apart. I want space. I want community. I want busy. I want tranquil. I’m sick of going to country parks for some peace only to find them now overrun with screaming children and their feckless fucking parents!

I’ve been doing a lot of investigating and I think Melbourne is the place for us. Sydney is too hot, expensive and busy. Tasmania is too isolated, economically stagnant and cold! Melbourne, and particularly St Kilda, gives me beach and city, cafes, culture, retail, people. More importantly, it’s an absolute breeding ground for the type of work I do. It’s incredibly specialised and whilst the software I support is used heavily in Aus, the main area of the business partners is around this area of Melbourne. I got in touch with one of them and was given an incredible recommendation following the work I’ve done with them over the last 5 years. As I mentioned above, my global reputation is clearly doing quite well. So I’m trying to arrange a couple of interviews when we go on holiday there in January.

In the meantime I’ve got a lot to arrange to apply for the visa. I need to pass the English test with a high score and I need to get my skills certified as I don’t have a degree. All that takes 6 months but should be done when I get back in Feb. Then I can file for my visa and if invited, it’s another 4-6 months for the approval. Once approved, I think we’re going to go and activate it so it’s good for five years and then really have a good hard think about it. I just figure that as now is the best time for the visa application, it makes sense to apply and get it. Then make the final decision later. No point planning for something so incredibly uncertain. Of course, if one of these companies decides to offer me a sponsorship/immediate job offer then I’ll go straight away! We’ll see…

It’s a really slow application process but I’ll keep the blog updated as it progresses. I’ve told everyone I think needs to know and now it’s a case of fingers crosses while I fill in the paperwork and jump the hoops. Wish me luck!

Wilkommen zum Deutschland

Hello, I had to take a rather sudden and unexpected break. My job hasn’t been especially busy the last few months, lots of thumb twiddling, not a lot of commission being earned. Then out of the blue we got a new client. A shoe company in the US with a European arm, the whole company had been bought out by Adidas and needed their financial systems migrating accordingly. Cue me on a plane to the Adidas HQ in Herzogenaurauch, about 40 minutes outside of Nuremburg.

It was all very last minute and rushed, I went out for a two week period but came home in the middle. Herzogs is a bit of a shithole and the prospect of spending the weekend there was too much to put up with. So I did 4 flights in 2 weeks and feel an immense need to go plant some trees. Especially as I have more visits due in the next couple of months. More on that later.

The campus itself was fairly nice. The Germans seem like very happy people. Like really genuinely happy. Not this passive aggressive happy bullshit you get in corporations over here. The food was good but a little unhealthy. I had some delicious fried waffles, kartoffeln something or other and one night for dinner I had my food served still in the pan!! I also had deer meatballs. They sure do know how to eat!

So, a pretty good trip, just having to reconcile my conscience about the air travel and being a bit of a corporate whore!

Unfortunately I was so busy I didn’t get an awful lot of time to look around and shop. It was all go from 7.30am to 8pm and then dinner with the team until 11.30pm, then bed, then did it all over again. The second half of the week was interesting. There was a beer festival on so all the hotels were booked and I spent 5 days in 4 hotels. One of which was a shared apartment with this 6’6″ Dutch guy I’d only met once who, on the first night, answered the door in his tighty-whiteys! It’s not exactly the flash international consultant lifestyle I was brought up to expect.

I’m still doing a lot of work for them over the next few weeks, just remotely. I should be going back the week before Christmas for a few days. In Nuremburg there is a proper German Christmas Market on. I suspect they just call it a Christmas Market! Hopefully I have some time to check out their bread and sausages. I ate a lot of both of these and they were some of the best foods I’ve ever tasted. I need to find the names of some of the breads and hopefully track down some recipes.

In the meantime, I’ll be making German Stollen for Christmas. I do this every year and have done for the last 6/7 years I think. This year, I’m going all out. I have dariole moulds and galvanised buckets. It’s very exciting! Watch this space!

Weekend At The Beach

This week I am on holiday from work. We were due to go on holiday in the Yorkshire Dales but cancelled due to snow and ice. The road leading to the cottage had 97 accidents in 6 hours the day before we were travelling so in the interest of not dying, we changed our plans.

We opted instead to go to the beach. In February. We went to Hunstanton in December and it hailed on us but we decided to give it another go. We stayed at a lovely little hotel called Caley Hall Hotel. Probably one of the nicest, most relaxed places I’ve ever stayed at.

Hunstanton is definitely growing on me. We had a chance to look around the seafront as well as plenty of walks on the beach. I took a ton of pictures:

Someone had made a snow angel on the golf course!

Visibility was minimal on the first day.

Lots of frozen fog!

The missus in her beach attire!

The sea was quite a way out but you couldn’t hear a thing. The fog muffled everything. It was really quite spooky.

Ripples on the beach were frozen.

This is a nice little rise right before you finally get to see the sea. I imagined myself being about five and struggling through the snow and sand to get to the top!

This is the back of the hotel. Been there a long time apparently.

All in all it was a great holiday. Even with the snow and ice and cold. We left the restaurant after dinner and it was -10!!! I made sure I had a beer coat!

We’re going to go again in the summer. Apparently it doesn’t get very busy. I love being by the sea. I grew up going to the caravan in Bridlington every weekend for years. Not being by the sea stinks! The problem I have with beachside places is that they’re usually heaving! I went to Brighton for years and then it just got too hectic. Tried Whitstable and nearly got killed by some chavvy motherfucker in a 4×4 because we nicked his parking space. In our Fiesta. He called us cretins, which was probably accurate but it was a bit pot kettle black.

Anyway, the point is, I miss the sea and I think in Hunstanton I’ve found somewhere pretty, with plenty of infrastructure to make a good holiday. Finally! Let’s hope it pans out well in July.

Australia 2011 Summary Post

Well, that was epic! I think that’s definitely a record. 10 parts!

I’ve put together a quick index, broken down by city. Just for a change, for these blog entries I’ve made all the pictures 560 in the post but if you click on them they will be bigger. Figured these were particularly good and you might actually want to look at them!

Just a few stats for you; I took over 400 pics and have whittled them down to 126! We were away for 22 days including flights. This blog is in 10 parts. It has taken 4 days to upload. I used a Nikon D5000 SLR with a mix of Nikon 18-55 VR and Nikon 55-200 VR lenses. A lot of pictures were shot on Auto because the camera really is so good, I barely have to think! My 55-200 lens was really good at tracking birds in flight. Well worth the cash. I haven’t photoshopped any of my pictures.

Enjoy!

Sydney
Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5

Tasmania
Part 6Part 7

Melbourne
Part 8Part 9Part 10

Australia 2011 Part 10

Phew! It comes to an end here!

Saturday 23rd April

Up early today, we were booked in on the Neighbours tour!

To many this is both bogus and sad but we freakin’ loved it! We love Neighbours and Home And Away. We Tivo them. We couldn’t NOT come to Aus without doing this tour.

First we went to the old Erinsborough High School and then we went to Ramsay Street.

Paul’s House

The Ramsay house

The Mangle House

The Robinson House

The Kennedy’s House of Moralistic Judgement

I couldn’t get a good shot of Toadies house of trouser. Too many girls in the way!

Standing in the middle of Ramsay Street 20,000km from home was incredibly surreal. Neighbours has been going for 26 years. I have watched it for about 18 years. I had a gap in the middle when I was working and had no Tivo!

After the street we went to the studios.

This house is the house where Calum was raised by his gran and also where Zeke was held captive by a seedy old man because he’d lost his memory in that rafting accident that gave us the old Libby back. I preferred kiwi Libby.

Check out the bus stop that everyone runs away from:

Lou’s car lot is being redeveloped for some exciting storylines we’ll see in about 6 months!

The tour guide was fantastic. He was this strange Irish guy who knew waaaaay too much about Neighbours! Brilliant!

At sunset we went back to the pier to watch the penguins come home. Awesome view:

But sadly no penguin pictures. It’s our last night in Aus and we had a lovely dinner at a French restaurant that used to be the French consulate building and before that, a brothel! Food was good!

Sunday 24th April

Last day in Australia today. Very sad to be leaving but also glad to be heading back to routine and organisation. 3 weeks of random probably isn’t the best thing for someone as OCD as me!

We packed everything up and hoped we would be under the baggage limit. Didn’t want to think how much a long haul fine would be!

Went for brekkie in a local café, had a wander and hung around waiting for our cab.

On the way from the airport, the driver kept checking her map and it took about an hour so I allowed for this to get there. The trip to the airport took 20 minutes so we got there with plenty of time to spare and again, the check in desk hadn’t even opened! We went for a coffee.

When the check in finally opened, we were first in line. Woohoo! We weighed our bags and were 100g under the limit. Get in! We publicly high fived. That was a bit lame perhaps…

Through the hand luggage scanner, traveller forms filled in, duty free – “oh my god what a ridiculously large bottle of Jack Daniels!!”, played with the iPod Touch display, went for some dinner in a really nice café and then went to our gate. On the way to the gate we stopped at WHSmith’s in desperate search of some Samboy’s. I also found this and couldn’t resist:

Brilliant!

To the gate, boarded the plane (if your seat range isn’t called, don’t join the fucking queue!!) This time we had two seats on their own so there was more room for our stuff down the side which gave me a little more leg room but it was still a pretty uncomfortable flight. The next long haul I do isn’t going to be with Qantas and it is going to have more legroom. Economy Plus perhaps. If my boss is reading this, please give me more money to facilitate my luxury lifestyle! 😉

We had a brief change in Hong Kong and we had to go through baggage checking again. Pain in the ass. Arrived in London finally and were greeted by the missus’ folks and we went for some food. Seriously, Qantas suck and there isn’t enough food for a near 24 hour flight.

Got home and unpacked and then had to sort out the living room and unpack all the boxes. The decorator has done a piss poor job so I took affirmative action and re-arranged all the furniture, ordered some new curtains and a rug and decided that a re-haul might bring some positivity to this place. For now it has.

And that brings to an end this epic 10 part blog! My next job is to put together an awesome panaroma I took in Tas, turn this blog into a photobook rather than just another photo album and then sort out which pics I want to print and frame and then I might be able to relax a little!

Australia 2011 Part 9

Wednesday 20th April

It’s raining.

Melbourne is a lot like England. It’s really green but I think to get that, it needs the rain and over the last couple of years it’s been pretty wet for them.

Today we opted for the art gallery. Always good to have one of these on hold for a rainy day. The best bit for me was the photography exhibition (if link doesn’t work, it’s a Deep Water exhibition).

On the floor above was another really good photography/modern art exhibition. This has given me inspiration for my photography, not so much in content, but definitely in the presentation. It doesn’t always have to be about the digital aspect, some of my photos would look fantastic in print and on a large scale, like maybe 8 feet high! When I get home I’m going to do some research and check out ebay and see if these are sellable at this size.

This might sound wanky, but some of the pictures I take aren’t just snaps or good photos, I often look at some of them as really great pieces of art and this exhibition confirmed that.

Thursday 21st April

Slept in a bit today. Decided to have a day off. The weather has been a little bit better today so we went for a nice brunch in the sun and then nipped over to Albert Park which is apparently the site of the Melbourne GP which was on just before we got here. I stood on the track and nearly got run down by ordinary cars!!

I found some birds that I thought were galah’s but they’re not. This whole holiday I haven’t seen a single fucking galah! Not even in the wildlife world!!!!

The views from St Kilda to the city are amazing. It’s a pretty shit suburb with hookers on every corner and titty bars down the main strip but it does have its good points. A bit like Camden.

In the park, I saw a truck

And a duck

And of course, some boats

Friday 22nd April

Today we went to the Dandenong Ranges. It was awesome! One of the missus’ internet friends who lives in Melbourne hired a car and drove us around all day.

We went to the SkyHigh view which was pretty cool.

Oddly it had an English Garden (they seem to love the English here)

We had lunch in the restaurant there. A man had a heart attack and the food was disgusting! NEVER go there!

After that we went around some of the local villages. We went to two novelty villages which were really kitschy and really awesome. One of them even had a Miss Marple themed tea shop which sold Devonshire cream teas!! I bought some stress release tea from a tea shop that sold 300 varieties of tea.

It was a really cool day.

Australia 2011 Part 8

Monday 18th April

So, we’re here in Melbourne on the final leg of our trip. I’m a bit tired of not really being able to unpack properly and repacking every weekend but y’know mustn’t grumble!

Today the missus and I went our separate ways, she had friends off the 1nt0rn3tz to meet and I went off to book us onto some tours, get a haircut and send my Foo records by airmail to the UK to get my baggage down. The latter cost me $80!! I actually think it would have been cheaper to pay the long haul excess baggage!

I have booked us onto the Neighbours tour!!!!

Apparently, Neighbours isn’t very big over here anymore and it’s pretty much only the Brits that go see it. It’s not even on primetime TV anymore! What’s wrong with these people?

We’ll be doing the tour on Saturday and I just found out (about an hour too late) that the pub around the corner does a weekly Neighbours trivia quiz and Paul Robinson and Karl Kennedy both get up on stage and sing. Wowzers!!

After doing everything I needed to in the city (we’re actually staying in St. Kilda) I went for a wander. Down on the river there is an Adidas endurance stage where a bunch of pro’s in their field are performing tricks without a break for a lengthy period of time. At around lunchtime today they still had 54 hours to go. Tomorrow I’ll go get some pics. It will have dropped dark and be floodlit which I think will make better pics.

I’m also going up the skydeck for a 360 view of the city at night and to the beach during the day.

Tuesday 19th April

Lovely day today, some good weather in between the clouds! Apparently it’s great weather at home. Ah the cheap season!

We went down to the beach near St Kilda pier. It’s a pretty small beach although I think it was high tide :/ It’s also not a very clean beach but the water looked good and I even saw a starfish.

Down the pier there was a big group of fishermen catching their lunch. That was pretty cool. One of the things I haven’t been able to do here is catch a fish and BBQ it. The weather just wasn’t up to it in Tas sadly. I shall make up for it at home by going to Waitrose to select a fish off the ice, bring it home and BBQ it for lunch! Not the same though is it?!

Anyway, check out these pics:

After the beach we jumped on the tram (which is a pretty cool way of getting around, similar to the tube but with a better view) and headed up into the city. We got off at The Domain Interchange and took a wander around the botanical gardens. Not as good as the one in Sydney but it did have a kickass lake. It also has a war memorial which has a great view into the city:

I escorted the missus to the end of town to go to a yoga class with one of her friends and then I took a walk down the river. It dropped dark pretty quickly but it let me get this shot:

I went back to the Adidas exhibition. All the teams were still going strong. Except the skaters. They all dropped out after 18 hours. Probably had the munchies. No pics for me. When I get home I’m definitely heading down to the Southbank to do a session of shots. I love it down there.

I was heading towards the Skydeck 88 in Eureka Tower where you can get stunning views over the entire city. When you go in you go up the lift at a phenomenal speed and your ears pop around floor 60. It’s 300m high! You get out the lift and then right in front of you is an amazing view.

Unfortunately, while it’s dark up there, the ambient light causes interference with the photos so most of the ones I took have reflections in them from the glass.

Until I made my way around to the terrace. Because of the high wind, you have to open one door, seal it then open the door out and nobody can open the first door until you’re outside. It’s pretty cool. There’s a little balcony and all that’s stopping you from plummeting to certain death is a sheet of chicken wire. They don’t have health and safety here in quite the same way as we do.

By poking my camera out of the chicken wire, I managed to get some half decent shots although composition went right out of the window!

Then I went back for the missus and we had dinner in the city and headed home on the tram. A good day all in!

Australia 2011 Part 7

Friday 15th April

Today we went on a cruise! I managed to persuade the missus to get on another boat and we went on an organised cruise down to Peppermint Bay.

Check out the boat we went on:

There were several price tiers. Some with lunch, some without and some where you got to sit on the captain’s deck. As I get older and wiser, I’m starting to realise that you get what you pay for and if, like me, you hate other people and you’re too polite to push in front, pay the extra to get the space and the freedom.

So we did. We got lunch included, sat on the captain’s deck and got exclusive access to the top of the boat. This was crucial to getting some good photos. It was also worth it for the looks I got from the ordinary people on the lower deck. Mastercard really does equal priceless!

The cruise went out from Hobart and down through the channel between Bruny Island and Tasmania. We passed some salmon farms which had some seals swimming around trying to steal the salmon. They were safely underwater though so no decent pics of them.

Further down the channel we came across a breeding pair of sea eagles.

There are some laws governing the feeding of sea eagles so they don’t rely on the touring ships for food. It allows the cruises to feed one breeding pair two fish each time they pass. I think I got pretty lucky with these shots:

He grabbed the fish, stashed it away in a tree and then came back for seconds!!

We picked up our lunches at Peppermint Bay and then the captain moved us out to sea and let us drift while we ate. We even had some sneaky glasses of wine! It was really nice.

After lunch we were taken back to Peppermint Bay and let off to go for a wander around the town of Woodbridge. Town is an overstatement, there wasn’t really anything there and it reminded me of one of the towns you might see in The X-Files!!

We went to a little gift shop and I bought a miniature replica of the Lady Nelson which was the boat used to map the entire coast of Tasmania. This will find its way on to a bookcase back home. I even bought a miniature Blue Wren.

After that we headed back but went a little further up the river to the Tasman Bridge and they talked about the great collision of 1975 where a boat got confused by the signals and crashed into the bridge taking out a couple of pillars. This in turn caused the bridge to collapse and some of the cars above to crash down into the water. Many people died and since then, the rules of the river have been much stricter. It was a bit grim but here are some shots of the bridge:

Then we headed back to the harbour and got off the boat and it felt all funny to be back on land again! It was a great value cruise that lasted about 5 hours and the tour guides were brilliant, they really knew their stuff. There was even a point where they dropped a camera underwater so we could see what was down there. Saw a few magpie perch and some blue throated ras’. It was bit murky because of all the rain though.

I think on a clearer day with no previous rain days, that is one hell of a cruise to go on but we definitely had fun and it’s been the highlight of the holiday so far!

When we got back to the house, it was all stations ready for footie night. I got to watch my first Aussie Rules game from start to finish in an Aussie household. It was really cool. We watched Collingwood thrash Richmond 161 – 90 and by the end of the game I think I had got to grips with all the rules. I’m definitely going to watch the rest of the season on ESPN when we get home.

Saturday 16th April

Tying up our week in Tassie this weekend. The weather has been pretty dire until today so we’ve been a little bit restricted on things to do. Today has been much better though. Around 15 degrees and some good sunshine.

The missus’ aunt took us up Mount Wellington. Lots of winding roads right to the top which is 1270m above sea level. I could feel my ears popping on the way up!

Halfway up we passed a fresh water spring caused by all the rain they’d had recently. We stopped and filled up a cup and it was delicious!

Check out these photos:

At the top the view was amazing. Pictures never do these things justice unless taken while skydiving to the bottom! That said, check these out:

There were a few cyclists on their way up and then a couple at the top preparing to bomb down the mountain. If I lived here, that would definitely be something I’d give a go.

After that we made our way back into Hobart and we were dropped off outside the Salamanca Markets. It’s a lovely little craft fair where you can buy all kinds of Tassie made souvenirs and food. Have to be careful buying food of course unless it’s to be consumed immediately. Stupid border laws!

I passed a really cool aboriginal stall which was selling face masks, plates and the obligatory boomerang.

Check this out:

I specifically asked for something that had fire and water in it to match my tattoo, which of course I showed to the bloke on the stall and he was suitably impressed.

The two dotted circles on the ends represent water and the solid lines in the middle represent a camp fire. The lines represent the journeys of the kangaroo and the goanna. It’s pretty badass! I also picked up some gorgeous chocolate mud Tasmanian fudge! Nom!

We stopped off for some lunch and I finally got to have some fish and chips. Where better than a proper seaside harbour town eh?! The best part was that it was fish of the day, so I guess whatever they caught during the week. I had Moorwan (I think that’s what she said) and it was delicious!

We went for a walk up into the town centre as I was on the lookout for a good record store to buy some Foo records. We found a JB Hifi which had a sale on and it was promoting the new Foo record so all the old records had five bucks knocked off. I bought pretty much the entire back catalogue of CD’s and DVD’s. I have had to creatively pack my suitcase and hand luggage to not go over the weight limit. And all because they say Australia on them. I tell you, record collecting is an illness!

All the fresh air around is pretty tiring. I suppose you get used to it but it’s meant a few early nights for us!

Sunday 17th April

Today has been a scorcher!!

We took Maggie for a walk to May’s Bay which is this lovely little secret bay in Lauderdale. It was a short walk from where we’re staying. It has private car access which keeps the visitors away and it has a lovely little path down to the beach and some really cool houses right on the sea front.

We walked all around the bay and back again letting Maggie swim in the sea to retrieve a stick. Dogs eh?! Couldn’t get a cat to do that!

It was just a really lovely moment and we both felt frozen in time. It seems that the land around here is expensive, as is building a house whereas pre-built houses are not so expensive. We worked out it could be worthwhile buying a house with 10 acres and selling off 5 acres and breaking even. Crazy huh?!

We headed back to the house, finished packing and then spent the afternoon getting sunstroke on the deck listening to a nature program on the TV about seals and other such winter creatures. Then it was time to leave.

Without a doubt, Tasmania > Sydney. I’m definitely a country bumpkin and while I like cities, I much prefer the peace and tranquillity of the sticks. I think I just need to adjust to not being so connected and online all the time and to not rely so heavily on having broadband. Then I reckon I could live in the sticks again.

Still, it’s given us food for thought on where we would like to settle down. Part of this holiday has been about deciding whether to move out to Australia. For my part it’s a rather surprising no and I’d much rather stay in the UK and luckily there are plenty of lovely places to live here. Just got to get lucky with the prices and time it right but I think coastal might be the way to go.

Phew! Part 8 sees me shooting off to Melbourne!

Australia 2011 Part 6

Tuesday 12th April

Today we flew out to Hobart, Tasmania. I’m not sure how, but my bags had gone over the weight limit. I think I packed really badly and for ease put stuff in the suitcase so we went over the 46kg limit. As a result I got charged $10. But then an attendant decided it was ridiculous for half a kilo and let me off.

This is something that is starting to irk me. Self-service machines. They’re everywhere. But there is usually always a plethora of staff assisting people with them. Why not just have the 5 members of staff you’ve allocated to this working behind the counter on the desk helping a queue of people.

All I see at the moment is 20 machines being used by 20 confused people with only 5 staff jumping between everyone multi-tasking. Then you get to the self-service bag drop. Naturally I broke the machine with my heavy bag and needed more assistance. The system isn’t working. I can guarantee that people would much rather wait patiently in the queue than be confused. Come on Qantas, sort it out.

The flight was easy. Simple up and down and relatively short. Until we got to Tasmania where it was having one hell of a storm. When we landed, we had to get off the plane and grab a brollie while we walked to the airport across the runway. Yeah, it’s one of those!!

Apparently, today has been the heaviest rain in 50 years!! Now there’s a welcome and a half!

We got picked up by the missus’ aunt and uncle and driven to their house. The visibility was minimal which was disappointing. I’d been promised stunning views. What I really like about Tasmania is that all the houses are different. No two neighbours are the same. The house we’re staying in is fantastic, it’s huge. You don’t get this much land so readily available in the UK. Population is around half a million for an island the size of Ireland.

Wednesday 13th April

It is still raining!

The rain has caused all manner of havoc and disruption here. It’s terribly like Britain. Also, like Britain, the news bangs on about hoons causing trouble but from a very one sided view and is essentially just scaremongering. At least I hope it is or I’m going to wind up bashed!

In spite of the rain, we went out on a ferry to an art gallery. Everything here seems to be done on a ferry. The missus usually suffers from terrible travel sickness but I persuaded her to OD on travel sickness pills and climb aboard! (fnar fnar!)

It was a lot of fun and incredibly surreal. The art gallery was called the Museum of Modern and New Art, or MONA for short. It’s owned by this terribly eccentric millionaire who made all his money in the 70s and 80s ripping off casinos by counting cards, getting banned and moving on to the next.

The gallery doesn’t use labels. You have to use a specially programmed iPod. This would’ve been ok if the damn things worked properly. Plus I got arm ache from holding my arm at 90 degrees for 3 hours. Not cool.

A lot of the art is the typical wank you find in the Tate but there were some standout exhibitions. On the iPod there was an option to like or dislike the works. Some of the ones that were just all pretention and no substance got a severe dislike. I’m a bit of a philistine like that.

They had a café that was the usual overpriced stuff but the highlight was a big queue of old people in front of us turning the corner of this long queue, seeing the price list and shouting “Nine dollars for a pie? I’m not paying that. *grumble* You can keep your nine dollar pie!” and then they went off without any lunch. Brilliant! After lunch we went for wine tasting at the local winery. That was fun! *hic*

It’s been about 12 degrees today. In the UK that would be a good spring day but here in Tas it feels a bit cold. Maybe it’s just because of the great weather we had in Sydney. The coldest it gets here is about 6 degrees and an occasional ground frost. Not too bad but the weather is more unpredictable than the UK.

Thursday 14th April

Today we decided to have a day off to rest. This holiday is tiring!

We made Eccles Cakes and while the pastry was in the fridge for an hour, we went for a walk on the beach with a Labrador called Maggie.

Here are some shots:

The light was pretty grey and gloomy so I switched over to black and white for a bit:

Part 7 coming up!

Australia 2011 Part 5

Sunday 10th April

Today started off bright and sunny, descended into being cloudy and humid and ended with one mother of a rain storm! I wish I’d seen that coming but instead we got absolutely soaked walking home in it. Cheap season eh?!

While the weather was good we went to see the Hyde Park Barracks. Australia has decided not to be embarrassed about its history and instead embrace it and expose it. I’m never sure if this is a good idea. Bringing it all back up can’t be a good thing can it? Besides, they’re subtly mocking the UK!

The museum was fantastic though. Very well researched and put together for such a tiny space. It really gave you a feel for the horrific conditions people experienced for crimes as crap as pick pocketing!

We intended to have another visit to the botanics today as it’s so big we still haven’t seen it all but as we stepped in to the barracks, the rain started so when we came out we opted to just come straight home. As mentioned above, we got drenched. To the bone!

Monday 11th April

Much better day today. It has been a bit cloudy but nice and warm. Yesterday’s rain has cleared the humidity so it’s been quite pleasant. We decided to go to the Sydney Wildlife World and Sydney Aquarium attractions. They were doing a really good deal; $35 each or $50 to see both together. We took the latter.

We had a lovely walk across town again, through Hyde Park and down to Darling Harbour. In many ways I wish we could’ve had more time in Sydney, there’s so much to do, Darlington Harbour is a couple of days in itself.

First up was the Wildlife World. As soon as you enter you get to see the big butterfly enclosure from low down and through glass. At the end of the tour you actually walk through this enclosure and if you’re lucky, or a child of about 7, the butterflies will land on you for a photo op. We were neither and from what I gather in the papers, a bearded bloke with glasses taking pics of kids is a big no no these days!!

After that you get all the insect enclosures. Bees, ants, spiders etc. Had me itching a bit by the end of it. They had the world’s largest cockroach and the world’s most poisonous spider. Frighteningly, we couldn’t see the most poisonous spider and we were scared it had escaped and was roaming the park in the shadows!

Then you get the amphibians which are my personal favourite. Check out these beauties:

The highlight was this big bugger:

A real life dinosaur!! He’s 5 metres long and called Rex!

The park was just choc full of facts too. Every enclosure had really interesting facts about all the animals. For kids, this is an amazing place to go in the holidays.

Then we moved to the outdoor creatures. We saw a kangaroo, a wallabie and of course, some koalas:

Kangaroo’s are just weird. But I feel bad for them as they’re heading towards being endangered. Before we came out here I read Songlines by Bruce Chatwin which was set in the 80’s and everyone just ran over kangaroo’s if they got in the way. If that has continued for the last 30 years, it’s no wonder they’re going to be endangered.

When we came out, the gift shop had a huge 5 foot stuffed crocodile. Decided we couldn’t get that on the plane though…

We went to the café for lunch. I was actually surprised at a) how nice the food was and b) how cheap the food was. This is a main tourist attraction in the heart of Sydney, I was expecting sky rocketed prices but they weren’t at all. Good work!

After lunch we went to the Aquarium. I didn’t get any pictures here, it was way too dark. I was also just absolutely fascinated by everything. So many weird types of fish over here. The kind of fish I’ve only ever seen in books and on the net and to see them up close was just amazing.

They had two underwater enclosures. One to see some Dugongs and one to see the big shark tank. Shark HQ is the big focus at the moment and a lot of the info areas are dedicated to sharks, shark tracking and they even have a shark hatchery where they grow the eggs, rear the sharks and release them into the wild.

I saw six medium sharks, an absolutely huge shark and even a humongous stingray. Similar to the one that killed that knob Steve Irwin!

All in all, the two exhibitions side by side and with the double entry deal were brilliant value for money and very educational. We even got a really cool laminated park guide which I will keep forever!

On the way back to the flat, I got another shot of one of these using my new 55-200 lens to get in a bit closer:

The end of part 5 brings an end to my week in Sydney. Stay tuned for part 6 where I head off to Tasmania!

Australia 2011 Part 4

Friday 8th April

We needed a day off. Sydney is deceptively sized. It’s too small to bother with public transport but its grid system means you don’t get the diagonal cut throughs you get in London so you end up walking a billion kilometres each day. Add that to the jetlag and you get a day off request!

We went to a really lovely café called Junction Café. We just went for a coffee and a snack really but the food they brought out was insane! There was so much! Ate it all of course! While sitting there I noticed that this part of town has a huge homeless problem, I gave a couple of dollars to a beggar and felt mildly good about myself for 2 seconds because nobody else in the café garden could spare change. Apparently. Also, some bloke picked up a hooker. In the middle of the day! Hand on heart I think the best way to explore a country and witness its naked culture is to avoid the tourist areas and slum it.

After coffee we went to an indie record store I spotted the other day. In Aus, they got the new Foo Fighters album Wasting Light days before everyone else. In Aus, the standard release includes a piece of the master tape the album was recorded on. This is only available in the UK as a special order from the US. This pleased me greatly.

We took it straight back to the flat and tested out the wicked expensive Bang and Olufsen setup. Holy shit this album is good! There is not a weak point on this record. The track order is spot on, designed to be played live and as witnessed at Dingwalls in Feb. A lot of comparison has been made and many have said this is their best since TCATS. I can see how that could be true because it’s their first really heavy record in years and it’s got Pat Smear on guitar but it’s also a bit like comparing chalk and cheese. TCATS is a bitter divorce album written in Grohl’s twenties. This record is so much more mature, just as angry sure, but far more confident and hella catchy! And let’s not forget that Butch Vig is in the producers’ chair!

I love Dave Grohl:

Saturday 9th April

Spent the morning lounging in the flat. Lovely weather, cracked the windows open and took in that lovely sea air. It’s really nice here. If I had a few million in my back pocket eh?!

In the afternoon we took a walk into the heart of the city to do some shopping. The missus wanted some authentic UGG boots and I wanted some Aus editions of Foo Fighters records for my collection. It was incredibly busy and a bit of a chaotic mess. Nothing is structured particularly well here. It’s like the 21st century has snuck up on them and suddenly exploded. Today I fell out of love with Sydney.

For all its faults, London is amazing. It’s massive and busy and a bit seedy but it’s organised and it has amazing public transport and a billion Starbucks and free wifi and ultimately it’s actually surprisingly clean. I think the big difference between Paris, Sydney and London and why I’m not fond of the former two is because they both have a friggin highway through the centre of the city and the pollution is crazy! London doesn’t have that and it has the congestion charge which has driven traffic to an all-time low and it’s all the more pleasant for it!

I found a kick ass record store called Red Eye Records. It had a bunch of special Aus only 2 disc versions of some Foo Fighters albums, a cool second hand section and a brilliant collectibles section. Of course collectibles = big bucks. TCATS Oz tour edition for $50? No thanks! I’ll wait for it to appear on ebay for a few quid! Unfortunately they had sold out of the double vinyl of Wasting Light although I’m pretty certain it’s just the EU version imported which I can pick up when I get home. I also picked up a fantastic sealed copy of I Told You I Was Freaky by Flight Of The Conchords on LP. Comes with poster, lyrics and guitar tabs. Awesome!

We got a bit lost and I think we ended up in the business district which on a Saturday is dead. However, we also found our first Starbucks! I can’t believe these aren’t on every corner like they are in the UK. However even this Starbucks didn’t have free wifi. What is it with this town? Yes, I’m downgrading it from city to town until it gets wifi!

After our spontaneous afternoon tea in Starbucks we headed to The Rocks and got a look at the bridge and the Opera House from a different angle.

See, look, proof I actually went to Sydney and didn’t just download pics from the net. Although I could’ve Photoshopped this…

We walked around Circular Quay and I saw a Fish and Chip shop that sold Perch and Chips. It reminded me of this chippie when I was a kid that was run by an Aussie and he sold Perch and Chips. I wasn’t allowed to get any though. I’ll get fish and chips somewhere while I’m here, you mark my words!

We carried on walking until we got to the Opera House where we got a couple of glasses of wine from the opera bar and watched the sunset. This I was actually impressed by. I was expecting such a massive tourist trap to be incredibly expensive but it only cost $20. Alcohol here is incredibly cheap. I think they have their priorities all wrong!

This is one of my best shots and when we get home, I’m getting it enlarged and framed:

On the way back, we walked up the side of the botanics and witnessed the mightily impressive mass feeding of the bats. They just flew across the sky in waves making the most horrendous racket. Apparently they go out as far as 40km in search of food before returning back to the gardens. Glad they’re vegetarian!!

Hang tight for part 5…

Australia 2011 Part 3

Thursday 7th April

Today has been wonderful. What a scorcher!

We decided to investigate the botanical gardens in more detail. In hindsight I kinda wish we hadn’t!! It’s absolutely brilliant but it’s full of bats and spiders and weird birds and plants. It’s all a bit much to take in!

We walked in and had a nosy around some of the plants and exhibition notes and at every turn we were greeted by spiders in webs as big as ropes. Check this out:

That doesn’t seem so big but that’s just one part of a hugely complicated structure. And like I say, they were everywhere. Add to that the reputation Aus has for poisonous and deadly spiders, you kinda just shit yourself!

However, spiders are nothing compared to bats! We could hear this screeching that sounded like cats fighting. We couldn’t see anything. I saw something fly overhead and land in a tree. I went to investigate further.

Grey-headed Flying Foxes!

They are huge as well. They are one of the largest in the bat family, can weigh up to 1kg and have a wingspan of up to 1 metre!! We found out in the gift shop that the park is usually host to around 8,000 bats but because of all the destruction being done to the environment in the name of progress, it’s currently host to around 25,000 bats. All hanging upside down in the trees through the day and at sunset they all take off together to feed. They are vegetarian. They are also damaging all the trees and while the folk at the botanics are doing all they can to gently remove them and keep them away, they essentially have nowhere else to go. Good one humans!

We also saw this little fella:

And these guys:

I keep hearing galahs but I have yet to see one. I’ll get you my pretty…

What I really loved was the views. They made me fall in love with Sydney in the space of an hour.

Especially this one:

This is the view over Farm Cove into Sydney Harbour, taking in the bridge and the Opera House.

Just around the corner, Mrs Macquarie has her own chair carved into the rock face where she used to sit and ponder. Probably wondering why she was with the horrible bastard that was her Governor husband. Or maybe pondering questions like “Why won’t the dark people conform to our ways? Why won’t they wear our clothes and act like us? Why won’t they accept the land grants that Mr Macquarie is giving them for the land that’s already theirs?”

You get the point right?

This is more a dig at the English than the Aussies. Well, maybe the Scottish. Australia is founded on a truly terrible history (see Sunday’s post).

On the walk back we found a really cool shortcut and we came upon Harry’s Café De Wheels. A meat pie shop that’s been on the harbour of Woolloomooloo since 1945. Naturally I obliged and bought myself a pie. It was delicious! Everything a meat pie should be!

Back at the flat we settled down for dinner and some Aussie TV. My favourite was a program for inventors but as far as I could tell it was just people googling shit already invented in the UK, refining it slightly and claiming it as their own. OK, that’s perhaps not fair but had they actually used Google they would’ve realised the inventions already existed and they could just import them for a fraction of the hassle. Otherwise it’s a classic case of monkeys on an island.

Part 4 coming up…